Nigeria, ECOWAS states hold meeting on coronavirus

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Olufemi Atoyebi and Olaleye Aluko

The Ministers of Health from Nigeria and other members of the Economic Community of West African States have held an “emergency meeting” on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, to the region.

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, on Monday in Abuja presented a communiqué issued by the ECOWAS ministers after their meeting in Bamako, Mali, on February 14.

The minister said, “Following expert presentation on the global situation, the processes currently in place in the region and laboratory preparedness, the ministers resolved to strengthen coordination, communication and collaboration among member states. This is in preparation for the Covid-19 epidemic, including cross-border collaboration.

“We will enhance surveillance and management measures for Covid-19, particularly at the entry points: air, land and sea.

“We will also step up communication to ensure the public receives accurate, appropriate and timely information regarding the epidemic. We will develop a strategic regional preparedness plan based on member states’ priorities for governments, partners and the private sector to support.”

FG denies abandoning Nigerians in China

Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Monday denied abandoning about 60 Nigerians living in Wuhan, China as coronavirus ravaged the city.

Nigerian citizens, including students living and studying in China, had accused the Federal Government of failing to aid their evacuation from the Chinese province where the deadly coronavirus was first reported and had its largest number of victims.

But while reading a communiqué released at the end of an emergency meeting of the Ministers of Health of the Economic Community of West African States on regional preparedness and response to the ongoing Covid-19 (coronavirus) epidemic (held in Bamako, Mali), the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunibe Mamora, said in Abuja that the Nigerian government was in touch with the Chinese government concerning Nigerians in China.

He said, “The Chinese ambassador here in Nigeria is constantly in touch with us at the Ministry of Health. We are also in touch with Nigeria ambassador in China. One of the reasons he is representing Nigeria in China is to monitor the health of our citizens in China.

“If the need arises to evacuate, we will do that; but we don’t want a situation where we will create panic. This is no time for fear or stigmatisation. This is time for science and research. It is not only Nigerians that are in self-isolation in China but even the Chinese citizens. Anyone leaving China now will be tested and if found with the virus, you will not be allowed to leave in order not to spread the virus.”

At the briefing, the Director General of the West Africa Health Organisation, Dr Stanley Okolo, said a huge amount of money was needed to prepare the region against the virus.

“The commitment from all member state at the Bamako meeting is that there should be regional plan that is strategic and they will support it to the best of their capacity.

“We are learning from the lesson of Ebola. When it hit us, everybody accepted that the response was slow. Ultimately, the member states contributed to Ebola fund and we had partners bringing a lot of money.

“This is not only the fight for government. The devastation of the epidemic affects everybody. In our estimate, we are not looking at $5m, we think it will be in the region of $30m to $50m to be sure that we can create headway in terms of critical personal protection, laboratory supplies and others and in terms of communication and coordination across borders,” he said.

Nigeria faces drug insecurity — NAFDAC

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control on Monday said the outbreak of coronavirus in China was creating drug insecurity in Nigeria since the country depended on China and other countries for the importation of active and non-active ingredients and medicines.

Speaking at an event held ahead of the African Medicine Quality Forum, which will hold between February 24 and 28 in Abuja, the Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, also warned Nigerians to desist from the use of paracetamol to cook beef and bleach to soak cassava meant for the production of fufu.

She said, “Seventy per cent of our drugs are imported and the alarm I am sounding now is one everybody should take seriously. We have drug insecurity because of the coronavirus.

“India is already feeling it because they buy most of their materials and active ingredients from China. If India is feeling it, we should start praying because we don’t manufacture anything here except water. We import almost everything, active and non-active ingredients, equipment and so on.

“So it is a scary thing and I have been emphasising this from day one. We need drug security. Since we import 70 per cent of our drugs, then, we are in trouble if such things happen.”

She said the agency was aware of the deadly practice of using paracetamol and bleach to prepare food items and warned that the former had the capacity to damage kidney.

She added, “When paracetamol is subjected to heat while cooking with it, it changes to para-aminophenol and benzoquine, which destroy the kidneys. We have done a lot of enlightenment because the major problem of our people is ignorance and illiteracy.”


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